Release #2-99
February 28, 1999

Nobel Laureate Glenn Seaborg Dies

    On February 25, 1999, Dr. Glenn Theodore Seaborg died. He was 86. Dr. Seaborg, one of the great nuclear chemists of the 20th century, won the Nobel Prize in 1951 for his discovery and chemical analysis of the transuranium elements (the elements heavier than uranium). He and co-workers also discovered plutonium-238 and -239 in Gilman Hall at UC Berkeley. That building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Dr. Seaborg made significant contributions to the periodic table of elements. He also helped produce many lighter isotopes that have had practical applications in research, medicine and industry. In 1991, he received the National Medal of Science, America's highest award for scientific achievement.

    In 1997, Dr. Seaborg was "immortalized" by having the element 106 named after him. He responded, "It's a great honor because it lasts forever. One hundred years from now, or one thousand years from now, it will still be seaborgium." He performed much of his valued research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. He and his co-workers named the elements 97 and 98 respectively berkelium and californium.

    Born on April 19, 1912, Glenn Seaborg received an A.B. from UCLA in 1934 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1937. He joined the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1939 but left in 1942 to work on the Manhattan project. When the atomic bomb was near completion, he wrote to President Harry Truman asking him to deter dropping it on Japan. In 1946, he returned to Berkeley and began work that produced one new element after another, a truly great scientific achievement when one realizes that he and his co-workers were making new forms of matter. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Dr. Seaborg the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, a position he held for ten years. He served as advisors to ten presidents, from Roosevelt to Bush, and supported the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

    Dr. Seaborg has been honored by dozens of scientific awards, has published more than 500 research articles, holds more than 40 patents including those on americium and curium (which makes him the only person to hold a patent on an element), has written more than 10 books, has mentored over 65 Ph.D. graduate students, and is the father of 6 children. A strong advocate of science education, he praised the book The Bible According to Einstein saying "This imaginative book traces the history of the universe and humankind, seen through the eyes of science and told in the language of faith. Ultimately, it provides a marvelous opportunity to learn a lot of science and enjoy it." That book is the first attempt to enlighten the general public about nature and science using simple, literary and narrative language.

    With the passing of Glenn Seaborg, the world has lost a superb educator, a devoted public servant and a great scientist.

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